4 Medical Conditions Common Among Veterans

People join the military to serve their country. Their sense of patriotism motivates them to start a career in the military. Practical reasons such as job security and good pay are, of course, other reasons behind joining the military.

But choosing a career in the military comes with its own fair share of sacrifices. Service members don’t only sacrifice time away from their loved ones and families; they also encounter a range of health issues during their stay in the armed forces. Exposure to various physical and psychological stressors leads to the development of several medical conditions common among veterans.

In this article, we’ll discuss some medical conditions common among veterans.

#1 Bladder Cancer

About 3,200 veterans are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year. This type of cancer develops when the cells in the bladder begin to grow out of control. The majority of tumors form on the bladder’s inner layer. Bladder cancer becomes difficult to treat when it grows into deeper layers.

A cohort study of over 2.5 million male Vietnam veterans observed an increased risk of bladder cancer among those exposed to Agent Orange. A toxic herbicide or plant-killing chemical used by the U.S. military to clear foliage during the Vietnam War is Agent Orange.

The risk of bladder cancer is also high among veterans exposed to the contaminated water of Camp Lejeune. Volatile organic compounds, such as trichloroethylene and benzene, present in the military base’s water are believed to increase their risk of bladder cancer.

#2 Parkinson’s Disease

Another condition common among veterans is Parkinson’s disease. An estimated 110,000 veterans are living with this neurodegenerative disorder in the U.S.
Per a 2023 study published in JAMA Network, a total of 430 veterans had Parkinson’s disease. About 279 of them were Camp Lejeune veterans, whereas 151 were from Camp Pendleton.

The study further revealed that veterans of Camp Lejeune were 70% at higher risk of developing this progressive disorder. The findings of the study disclosed that veterans exposed to trichloroethylene (TCE) and other VOCs in Camp Lejeune’s water were at an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

A small epidemiological study also confirmed the link between TCE and Parkinson’s disease. It found that hobby or occupational exposure to this VOC elevated a person’s risk of this progressive disorder by 500%.

An unimaginable number of lawsuits have been filed by veterans of Camp Lejeune who developed Parkinson’s after exposure to the contaminated water. The passing of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) of 2022 has allowed the veterans to recover damages for the harm they sustained due to exposure to the toxic substances of the military base’s water.

As per TorHoerman Law, you qualify for a lawsuit if you or your loved one developed Parkinson’s disease due to exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
In regard to the latest Camp Lejeune contaminated water update, the first trials are expected in the early part of 2024. Claims over Parkinson’s disease, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and kidney and bladder cancers are expected to be addressed in the first trials.

#3 Gulf War Syndrome

Unexplained illnesses that occurred in veterans of the 1991 Gulf War are known as Gulf War syndrome. Symptoms of Gulf War syndrome include fatigue, joint pain, headaches, indigestion, dizziness, insomnia, memory problems, and respiratory disorders.

Recent research by the UT Southwestern Medical Center demonstrated that sarin, a chemical agent, is to blame for this condition. Back during the start of the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. and Coalition planes bombed major sites in Iraq where dangerous chemicals were stored. This resulted in fallout, exposing the U.S. troops to low-level sarin, a nerve agent.

When exposed to high levels, sarin can be fatal. This chemical agent, at low levels, can cause long-term neurological impairment.

#4 Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury was common among the U.S. military service members who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s estimated that between 9% and 28% of service members developed traumatic brain injury. Complicating matters further, a significant number of veterans had one or more traumatic brain injuries prior to entering the armed forces.

Traumatic brain injury is a major healthcare issue among veterans because it disrupts the brain’s normal functioning. Shock waves from explosive weapons, violent impact, and bullet penetration are the major causes of military traumatic brain injury. Incidences of this injury are approximately twice as high in males than in females.
In conclusion, the military environment serves as the catalyst for the onset and progression of several medical conditions. When deployed, they are exposed to dangerous chemicals that increase their risk of developing certain diseases.

Besides those mentioned above, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, and musculoskeletal ailments are common among veterans. There is no way veterans can reduce their risk of developing these medical conditions. However, regular health screenings, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking timely medical attention for any symptoms or concerns can help mitigate risks.